A message from the past
Miko Malabute | Thursday, December 3, 2015
In a Scene story Wednesday, I touched on the warmth of nostalgia — in that particular case, the warmth of nostalgia from the perfect holiday drink.
However, in writing up that article I fell deep into the rabbit hole of seemingly every other bit and piece of nostalgia that I could bring to the forefront of my memory and relive on my computer screen. I found myself watching old WWE videos (although, at that time they were still known as “WWF”), listening to Blink-182’s “Enema of the State” and probably most interestingly, reading an article that revisited one of the most time-consuming applications of our teenage years: AOL Instant Messenger.
“AIM,” as it was popularly referred to, was arguably one of the greatest ways to communicate without actually communicating pre-smartphone era, similar to how text messaging has been used for the past decade or so now. And similar to the flip phones and slider cell phones of our pubescent years, a part of me almost wishes that AIM was still alive and well amongst my generation.
The experience of AIM was like none other at the time. You would be signed in on the family computer pretty much all day, and you would set your status to “away” during school hours to let your AIM buddies (yes, before Facebook friends and Twitter followers, there were AIM buddies) know that you, just like them, were away from the computer screen.
However, everyone who was anyone knew not to simply write an away message like, “I am currently away.” No, if you were a proper angsty teen, you had to have the perfect song lyrics in there that captured your wise, emotionally intelligent soul. As soon as you came home, you would plop down in front of that computer and do a quick scan of your buddies list to see who was “Available.” A quick double-click and you instantly brought up a line of communication with someone you saw quite literally just a few hours ago. Conversations usually were very shallow — after all, you did just see them a few hours ago — but for some reason, you and your friends just had to know what each of you were up to that evening.
But that wasn’t even the best part. No, the best was the cringeworthy screen names that, if you pressed your current self now, you could probably remember — right down to the downright weird use of letters and numbers in “b4ll1nforev4.” Every person’s screen name had a story, albeit not the most meaningful of stories, but a story nonetheless. Sure, in the real world we were just normal boys and girls at school; online, however, we were the budding athlete, the dancer, the crazy skater or (my personal favorite) the guy who swore he was a rap superstar at the age of 13. And no one really judged you for it (back then, at least), because everyone’s name was equally awkward and comedic.
Not to sound too much like the old man yelling at kids to get off my lawn, but I do feel sorry a bit for the kids growing up today, because they will never get to live through an experience quite like AIM. But that’s enough of that, I’ll set my status to “away” now.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.